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The heart and soul of any automobile is the engine, since this is the power plant of the vehicle and ensures it can be driven. In order to build, maintain, repair, or rebuild engines, the automotive machinist must often be hired. This professional has been trained to know how engines operate, how to diagnose problems, and how to make repairs. The job of the automotive machinist can vary somewhat depending on the type of engine, but generally, he or she will have all the skills and knowledge necessary to address any issues an engine might have.
In some cases, the automotive machinist may also be responsible for creating new parts for an engine. This may mean using various types of metal machine tools, either manually operated or computer operated. The latter type of machine will usually be computer numeric controlled (CNC). The automotive machinist must be trained how to use such machines properly and safely. More often, however, the machinist is likely to buy prefabricated parts for installation on the engine, though even these parts may need modification either for compatibility purposes or to enhance performance. The machinist must be able to assess a new or used part's usability for a particular engine.
Some types of engines are more complex than others, and the automotive machinist will need to be able to figure out the general layout and function of each engine, regardless of its complexity. This means the machinist must have expertise working on both gasoline- engines and diesel-powered engines, though many machinists tend to focus exclusively on one or the other. Special training is usually necessary for each type of engine, and while much of this training can be done in an informal fashion, many employers require the automotive machinist to undergo a formal training program.
In order to become an automotive machinist, it is usually necessary to complete at least a high school education or equivalent qualification, though this is not always the case. If the machinist chooses to undergo a formal training program, he or she will usually be required to have a high school diploma, since the training is generally considered to be post-secondary education. In fact, in some cases, the machinist will end up with an associate's degree upon completion of the training program. In other instances, the student may choose to complete a certificate program instead, which means less schooling overall.